Monday, June 04, 2007

New Lighting Technology

We need better lighting. Incandescent bulbs are inefficient, but fluorescent bulbs contain toxic materials such as mercury. Fortunately scientists at the University of Illinois are working on a new lighting technology that is brighter than incandescents, and may eventually be more efficient than fluorescents.
“Built of aluminum foil, sapphire and small amounts of gas, the panels are less than 1 millimeter thick, and can hang on a wall like picture frames,” said Gary Eden, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the U. of I., and corresponding author of a paper describing the microcavity plasma lamps in the June issue of the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

Like conventional fluorescent lights, microcavity plasma lamps are glow-discharges in which atoms of a gas are excited by electrons and radiate light. Unlike fluorescent lights, however, microcavity plasma lamps produce the plasma in microscopic pockets and require no ballast, reflector or heavy metal housing. The panels are lighter, brighter and more efficient than incandescent lights and are expected, with further engineering, to approach or surpass the efficiency of fluorescent lighting.

The plasma panels are also six times thinner than panels composed of light-emitting diodes, said Eden, who also is a researcher at the university’s Coordinated Science Laboratory and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory.

A plasma panel consists of a sandwich of two sheets of aluminum foil separated by a thin dielectric layer of clear aluminum oxide (sapphire). At the heart of each lamp is a small cavity, which penetrates the upper sheet of aluminum foil and the sapphire.

Such lightweight, thin profile lighting would be in demand by upscale designers, even if the efficiencies were not much better than that of incandescents. But with efficiencies challenging fluorescents, this lighting technology should find ready acceptance if efficient production methods are devised.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts